Stop for Pedestrians. We Mean It This Time.

People crossing a street on foot holding a banner that says Stop for pedestrians at every corner.

Highland District Council pedestrian safety awareness crosswalk event, August 2014

Beginning this Sunday, August 2nd, it’s Pedestrian Safety Week in St. Paul through the following Sunday, August 9th. This year, the St. Paul Police Department has a grant from the Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths program to do focused education and enforcement for pedestrian safety. Starting at the National Night Out on August 4th, city police will be distributing educational information about the state’s crosswalk law. They’ll follow up with enforcement at intersections throughout the city. At a press conference for the campaign, Sgt. Paul Paulos said the average fine for violations is $140, and he said there would be “no tolerance” during this enforcement campaign, so if you get stopped, expect a ticket.

Police officer standing at a podium speaking with a police car in the background

SPPD Sgt. Paulos announces the city’s pedestrian safety enforcement campaign.

In addition to the extra police enforcement, several St. Paul District Councils will be doing crosswalk events at intersections in their neighborhoods. As you’re out in the city this week, you may spot neighbors demonstrating safe pedestrian use of crosswalks and educating drivers on the state crosswalk law. Every intersection is a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or not. And as Summit University Planning Council board member Rebecca Airmet noted at the campaign’s press conference, “Everyone is a pedestrian.” No matter how you travel, you begin and end your trip on foot. If you drive, make a commitment to stop for pedestrians at every intersection, day or night. (Take the St. Paul Walks pledge and make it official!)

I’ve noted on here before how pedestrians are a disproportionate percentage of the Minneapolis-St. Paul region’s traffic fatalities. Although it might feel like a small step, seeing the coordination between the St. Paul Police Department, the city, the metro Toward Zero Deaths program, St. Paul Walks, and the city’s district councils this year is an encouraging sign that pedestrian safety is becoming a higher priority in the city. The need for safety for people on foot doesn’t stop at city borders, and I’ve heard that Minneapolis may have received a grant to do similar pedestrian safety enforcement. Hopefully future pedestrian safety awareness events can cover a bigger part of the region with a more powerful message that no matter where you are in the area, when you’re driving, you really do need to stop to let people on foot safely get to where they’re going.

Heidi Schallberg

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Heidi Schallberg tweets @laflaneuse more than she posts here. Her posts reflect only her opinion and not those of any organization.

13 thoughts on “Stop for Pedestrians. We Mean It This Time.

  1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Would be interesting if these really will be full cost tickets, mostly warnings, or even if tickets will they be easily contested and dismissed.

    If a couple cities in the metro made it a regular habit to enforce, no compromise, ped crossing laws the way they setup speed traps we might make headway toward changing local driver behavior.

    I just returned from a week on the California Orange County coast. The level of drivers honoring stopping for peds at crosswalks spectacularly shames Minnesota drivers. It was amazing.

    1. Rosa

      and if a portion of driver’s behavior changed, other drivers would feel more empowered to change – a lot of the analysis of “should I stop for this pedestrian” for drivers who know they are supposed to is, will I get rear-ended by the car behind me?

  2. Pingback: Chart of the Day: Speed Kills |

  3. Rebecca AirmetRebecca Airmet

    Officer Paulos mentioned that not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a misdemeanor. I think he was pretty clear about writing tickets next week rather than giving warnings. If you live in St Paul, six of the district councils are having crosswalk “events” next week. There will be one at University Ave and Dale St on Wednesday, from 4 pm to 5 pm. Come down and cross the street!

  4. Julia

    You know what drivers seem to care about the legality of? Parking during snow plowing restrictions. I think it’s a combination of things. Firstly, cities remind drivers of their responsibilities as drivers. Secondly, there is swift enforcement with heavy penalties (time + money). Thirdly, almost every driver I know has and shares (multiple) stories about when they/someone they knew was towed–about the cost, inconvenience, inequity of it, etc.

    For all these reasons, there’s a ton of casual social interaction around avoiding this particular behavior and its consequences–the population is, by and large, self-policing. In this way, it’s a well designed system that gets people talking and changing their behavior about a particular traffic issue (I’m ignoring the class/race disparities in enforcement here) with a pretty minimal input of city dollars (at least compared to the amount of press/social media coverage it gets).

    I’d like to think that drivers would care to drive safely because they don’t want to injure/kill people who are walking/biking, but driving is a habitual behavior and our roads aren’t designed to remind them of the deadly power they wield. As we slowly work to engineer better streets, I think enforcement has a role to play in helping people drive more safely. Sustained ticketing (or even towing?!) campaigns targeting drivers who break laws designed to protect people on bike/foot would absolutely be a boon to our cities. Achieving friend-of-a-friend social sharing levels (relatively minimal enforcement) would go a long ways towards correcting the dangerous behavior of well-intentioned motorists who need more direct motivation to remind them drive safely and legally.

    I hope that the Minneapolis Police Department might start doing a campaign like St. Paul’s, especially now that we’ve repealed lurking/spitting laws. I do have serious concerns about potential racial profiling in enforcement of laws protecting the safety of those on foot/bike, but that concern exists for me regardless of what our police department is focusing on and I am hopeful that better oversight, data collection, and new policies will help address those.

    1. Julia

      True, but as a stop-gap measure, it’s better than what we currently have (threatening/aggressive/violent drivers at worst and entitled/inattentive drivers at best).

      Infrastructure changes take years (even decades) and even with progress (yay!!), we still don’t have the political will to build streets that prioritize those on foot/bike rather than those in cars.

      For example, Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis between downtown and Uptown is a heavily used by those on foot and on bike. It has a hodgepodge of traffic light solutions and laws (inc. no RTOR). Portions have no walking infrastructure and most has no biking infrastructure. While the Hennepin/Lyndale section is being redone and will be far better, it will still balance people on foot/bike with cars, rather than prioritizing carbon neutral transit, and those improvements are still a few years down the line. Further south, I am unaware of any plans to improve the streets. Driving that endangers those on foot/bike is rampant and drivers often totally block crosswalks and sidewalks–I am aware of multiple acts of violence and aggression from drivers to those on foot.

      I think in this case, enforcement of existing driving laws would provide immediate relief for pedestrians and decrease the current attitudes of entitlement that lead to threatening behaviors from drivers.

      Real enforcement (not one day a year, not an excuse for racial/class profiling) will make our streets safer to walk, which itself will encourage walking and a broader feeling that walking is not aberrant behavior. I think that’ll help support the infrastructure changes we need for sustainable cities.

    2. Rosa

      Even a small improvement would be great.

      And enforcement can do a LOT. There is a corner on Lake Street near us where it’s illegal to turn left at certain times. 10 years ago, everyone ignored the sign. The city intermittently set an officer parked around the corner ticketing people one summer, and magically the sign became observed. Then habit took over. I’ve only seen one driver stop traffic for a left turn there for any length of time in the past few years.

  5. Keith Morris

    It really speaks volumes that we won’t pay a pittance to stripe all or even most crosswalks within our cities, let alone the burbs. All of these intersections should be striped to reflect state law.

    1. Rosa

      Ticketing, on the other hand, MAKES money for the city.

      I haven’t seen striping make any difference at all, even near schools. Drivers routinely stop right blocking every striped crossing I use. Why should we put out all that money to teach people what they should know, when without enforcement there’s no behavior change?

  6. Rachel Q

    “Every intersection is a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or not.”

    That is such an important reminder and an area that drivers need to be educated on. I would hazard a guess that 75 or 85% of all drivers don’t know that they are required BY LAW to stop whenever a pedestrian is trying to cross at an intersection. Most drivers I know barely stop for a marked crosswalk.

    I hope this campaign goes well! I’m excited to hear more about.

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